Jealousy and Envy - What Is the Difference between
Jealousy and Envy in Abusive Relationships?

Dr. King

by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

What is the difference between jealousy and envy? You know each of these feelings like the back of your hand if you have ever lived in an abusive relationship.


Jealousy is that feeling of wanting to control what another person appears to be having...attracting...experiencing. We think of it in terms of romantic relationships where one person wants the other person to be nourished by their affections only.

When they sense attention and/or attraction from a third party, they feel this uneasiness that we call jealousy. It's a feeling that says, "I don't feel stable with respect to 'you and I' when you are getting ABC from this other person and/or this other experience."

If you are in an abusive relationship, you know this experience of your partner being jealous of that which brings you pleasure outside of and beyond his/her control.

When you are on the receiving end of jealousy, your natural instinct-as a domestic abuse victim-is to minimize your partner's jealousy, as you know its ramifications. And you likely believe you have the job and wherewithal to regulate it.

You may even go out of your way to indulge that of which he/she is jealous …privately...covertly. And should you get caught in the act, you may find yourself downplaying or minimizing the importance of his/her object of jealousy…all in an effort to lessen the jealously.


Envy, on the other hand, is more about you relative to the object of your envy, not the person having, being…embodying it. It's more of a feeling of wanting for yourself that which you see the other person having-without them in the equation.

There isn't a control component in envy, which is another primary distinction between jealousy and envy. However, as a domestic abuse survivor, you may have been envious of your partner's domination, power and control. On some level, you may have longed to have some of that power for yourself. But it was the power that you desired in and of itself, irrespective of your partner.

Understanding this subtle distinction will serve you next time you experience or encounter jealousy and envy. It will tell you what it is that you are actually longing in the moment.

For more information on recognizing, ending and healing from verbal abuse in marriage, visit and get Free Instant Access to your survivor success eInsights. Dr Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps individuals and families recognize, end and heal from domestic violence. Copyright 2009 Jeanne King, Ph.D.

Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. – Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

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Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.